Joey Votto is a guy Mike and I have spoken about repeatedly since the middle of last year. Both of us believed he was poised for a breakout, and, wow, is he providing one. Let's take a look inside the numbers and see what we can expect in the second half.
Putting all of the All-Star talk aside, the reality is that Votto is putting up a heck of a half-season for the very surprising Reds. I think, however, that there is more to come. In keeper leagues, if you are competing and have Votto as a dump chip, I think you can make a strong argument that you need 3 players for 1 here, assuming you don't have salary cap issues. If you are dumping this year and Votto is at a keeper salary, he should be very high on your list of targets. Here is why:
1. Votto is just shy of 27 with 3 years major league experience. He is essentially at the peak power performance level and properly identified as a breakout candidate prior to this season. There is no reason to believe that the breakout will not continue into next year as well.
2. Votto has generally put up steady numbers both before and after the All-Star break. 2009 saw Votto's average drop off to .300, but his power numbers go up slightly. Nothing in his splits, however, suggests a second half drop off.
3. Votto is one of the rare power hitters that contributes something in most if not all of the relatively standard categories (average, runs, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases and on-base percentage). The earnings for his updated ZIPS projection 35/105/12/.309 should be at or near the $40 mark; I personally think the projection is a little light, but its a reasonable expectation.
4. Votto has translated his doubles to home runs while seeing a 7% increase in his ground ball rate; a 4% drop in his line drive rate; and a 3% decrease in his fly ball rate. The key: a healthy 7% increase in his FB/HR rate. Is 25% sustainable? In Cincinnati, I certainly think it is. Even if it drops off a little to 20%, I still expect the line drive rate to increase and the ground ball rate to decrease (back to their normalized Votto levels), so the increase number of fly balls in that park should offset any decrease in FB/HR percentage.
All in all, Votto is putting up a very nice fantasy season. If you have him, enjoy the ride. If you don't, go get him.